Trying to read the tea leaves of Josh Kroenke's press conference

USA TODAY Sports

Josh Kroenke spoke for roughly 40 minutes at Pepsi Center today about Masai Ujiri, George Karl and the future direction of the Denver Nuggets.

Josh Kroenke on the departure of George Karl:

Josh Kroenke: "I made a statement at the end of the season regarding - George was under contract for another year, there were going to be some internal meetings, and George was going to be a major part of those. We talked about our future, we talked about our different desires for the organization. [George and I] tried to figure out the best ways for us both moving forward, my worse case scenario that we kept coming back to was: We are obviously going to start next season without [Danilo] Gallinari and for me, it would be a tough situation to put George in knowing he might want to restructure his contract already. If he's on the final year of his contract and we start off slow that would be an impossible situation to put a coach of that stature in. While it was a tough decision, I felt it was the right one to make at this point in time and for us all to get a fresh start moving forward."

What can we get from this statement? Like we've been hearing - the extension that Karl may have been asking for played a role in Kroenke's decision to not bring the coach back. The Nuggets did appear to be in a "wait-and-see" mood with Karl and like we talked about on the CSG podcast, if the Nuggets were already in "wait-and-see" mode then they were already contemplating life after Karl.

The other key part in Josh's statement is the "fresh start" angle. For all intent and purposes, Josh inherited Karl when he took over. Now, Josh and his team will have the opportunity to bring in a coach that they want. Josh would not say and actually did claim that Karl's playoff record had nothing to do with his decision to let him go. But then he talked about wanting to win in the post-season and win a championship. That was a little contradictory, but I do think a fresh start was a key in his decision and the right decision.

Josh on Masai Ujiri not returning to the Nuggets:

JK: "I've known Masai for a number of years, dating to his time here as a scout. He and I had an agreement and the agreement that we came to was the number that he asked for. When Toronto came calling, that was the one opportunity that I knew he might leave us for and that resulted in Masai and I having a conversation. It wasn't a black and white situation which I think a lot of people tried to make it around the contract - which was the money - and I don't think it was a situation regarding money at all. I know people say that all the time because of the amount of dollars thrown around in this league, but there are a lot of close relationships involved as well."

What can we get from this statement? Not putting pen to paper after the 76ers came calling cost the Nuggets Masai Ujiri. Money aside, the Raptors job obviously meant a lot to Ujiri and not locking him up opened up the opportunity for Ujiri to head "home" as he called it.

Would Karl still be here if Masai was still here?

JK: "Masai and I had a few conversations about [Karl] leading up to this. Masai wasn't here when the decision was made, this was my decision. Masai and I did discuss throughout the process, I don't know what he would have told me to do had he been here, but I'm sure that whatever I decided Masai would have supported."

What can we get from this statement? That is might not have been Masai's decision to make on Karl and this was a decision that Josh came to after meeting with Karl.

Why fix something that isn't broken?

JK: "I don't think that these changes are me thinking that it was broken. I'm incredibly proud of the season that we had. I'm incredibly proud of our players, our front office, and our coaches as well. Like I said, I'm only focused on the future. I understand that there could be some unease out there just based on the awards that were recently won. But at the end of the day, I'm not here to win awards - I'm here to win banners."

What can we get from this statement? Again, Josh would not say that Karl's removal was about post-season lack of success, but when you say you want to win "banners" and you fire the coach you had - that means he was not the guy that you believed was going to get you there. Again, moving in a new direction is what I think this is about and there is nothing wrong with wanting to try something different after nine seasons.

Will Josh take more control of the Nuggets with Masai gone?

JK: "I think that we'll continue with what we've done here all along. It's always a group decision. At the end of the day it was never Masai's decision, it was always mine. He would bring me recommendations, I'd bring him recommendations and we would debate, debate, debate about it and then ultimately we'd decide on something together and move forward."

What we can get from this statement? A little confusing on the "it was always mine" line and then saying it was a "decide on something together" - Josh did say that the firing of Karl would have been his decision and something Masai would have hopefully supported ... so that's a little confusing or perhaps it isn't. Josh will have final say on something if he feels he needs to.

Criteria on hiring a new GM and coach:

JK: "There's people coming out of the woodwork for both jobs, which tells me that people think very highly of our organization. So, I'm not panicked about making a decision right now because there's some really good candidates out there right now as well as some that are calling in behind the scenes too. I'm going to take my time, there's going to be an interview process for both."

Will Josh hire from within?

JK: "I think the 57 wins is something we can build on. I am going to look internally and externally as well. Had I listened to a lot of people in this room, I don't think I would have hired Masai three years ago. I know what I want and I know what I need. And I think we're going to be fine moving forward."

What can we get from these statements? Josh also indicated that he talked with the players about the situations going on and he also said later in the presser that he would listen to some opinions on what the players think about certain candidates for the open jobs in Denver. He'd have final say, but he did want to solicit their opinions. The big internal names: Pete D'Alessando for GM and perhaps Melvin Hunt for coach? We'll see who the Nuggets interview and eventually hire.

Why not lock up Karl to an extension now? Team had 57 wins.

JK: "I wasn't sure about the direction I wanted to take the team; long term. For me to have to make a decision on that now, I needed to error on the side of caution more than the side of certainty. If I lock into something for the next three years and then I realize next year that it's not the right fit, then I've made a terrible decision for my organization for the long term and I'd have to figure out a way to correct that and I've put George in a tough situation as well. My evaluation of the situation with George was: it was best for all parties for this to happen now."

What can we get from this statement? Again, Josh was not sure that Karl was the right guy for this team anymore and instead of waiting another year, he made the decision now.

From yours truly: "We've seen reports that other teams have maybe reached out to speak with Pete D'Alessandro. Can you tell us about his status with the organization?"

JK: "Pete's status with the organization, I think he is here in this room somewhere - maybe hiding in the back. Pete's a great guy, he's a wonderful, wonderful front office executive and when you hire good people, people take notice of that. There have been teams that have taken notice: one obviously with Masai and again with Pete. Pete and I are going to have a conversation about everything that we want to do moving forward. The direction that I want to take this team, the direction that he sees himself in the organization, and Pete's really excited about the opportunities that might be here ahead as well."

What can we get from this statement? There was speculation that today was going to be a press conference announcing Pete at the official GM of the team. He might be stepping in for Masai ... "excited about the opportunities" ... but nothing official yet.

Why not match Masai's contract offer from the Raptors?

JK: "Masai told me not to. He said, "You know Josh I'm not going to tell you match. I think I've already made my decision." His press conference was very revealing because it showed his affinity for the city of Toronto. In his opening statement he said, "I'm home" several times. I don't think it was intention to move on from Denver very quickly, but Toronto was always a special place for him as well. His career started here as a scout, then he moved to Toronto, then he came back here, and now he's back in Toronto. As far as matching the offer, Masai told me not to. I said, "Well buddy, if that's your decision then we're not even gonna have the conversation. I wish him the best. I know it's a tough thing for Nuggets fans to lose somebody like Masai, but I can assure all the fans that we're gonna be fine. We're excited about the future, hopefully they trust me at this point in time, somewhat, because I was the guy that hired Masai.

"There was a lot of criticism that came my way, initially, in the Melo process for picking a novice like Masai. I think he and I navigated that pretty fine. I think whatever decision I make regarding our front office and our coach, going forward, is going to be the best one both short and long-term for the Nuggets.

What can we get from this statement? I think Josh will take a bit of a hit for this statement. He wants folks to believe that money played little to no role in Ujiri's decision and that Masai's mind was made up about Toronto almost as soon as they came calling. Not sure how Nuggets fans will feel about that. Ujiri spent more time in Denver than he did in Toronto - so why would he not think of Colorado as his home as well? A question best asked to Masai. But the money issue shouldn't be one with Denver's deep-pocketed owners.

Perhaps Masai wanted the challenge of fixing another franchise over trying to take the Nuggets to the next level. I don't know. Masai did say in his press conference in Toronto that he leaned a bit more towards the challenge of rebuilding a team like Toronto. Perhaps he will move from team-to-team remaking rosters?

The question that I failed to ask and everyone failed to ask is were the Nuggets ready to match Toronto's offer to Masai if it were just about money? Are the Nuggets willing to spend into the luxury tax to push the team to title contention if and when they get there and if they need to? The Masai question is now a thing of the past and a lot of fans believe they already have their answer, but we will find out in time on the rest.

I think Josh handled the dismissal of Karl perfectly, to be honest. Josh is finding the direction that he wants to take this franchise. He may not know all the answers yet, but he knows the direction the team was headed under Karl needed not be followed anymore.

If the team takes a step back next season, it does not mean firing Karl was a mistake. Josh is looking into the future and he's not afraid to take a step back, if he must, in order to make a leap forward.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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